Wednesday, 14 November 2012

! Reflecting on Gilets

All cats are black cats after midnight
I frequently ride long after sundown, whether it is due to cycle commuting, or long-distance cycling events such as randonneuring. On my most recent ride, I managed to destroy the zip and noted high-usage wear and tear including random unstitching from the only gilet (vest) that I have ever owned that I believe to be suitably visible at night.

I looked both at my LBS and many online stores and it is quite apparent that commercially available gilets, including flurorescent coloured ones are simply not suited for riding in the dark. The bright colours are helpful in low-light conditions e.g. rain, but are of no use after sunset due to a distinct lack of reflective material. In fact, I would say that there is typically only between no and a barely subliminal quantity of reflective material on such garments. I can understand limiting reflective material to thin strips of piping etc for aesthetics on day time gilets that are not fluorescent in colour. However, for fluorescent gilets, it seems insane to stop short of a garment that would otherwise provide greatly increased visibility, from a distance in night-time conditions.

I personally do not regard fluorescent without reflectives as “hi-viz” because after dark and travelling on the road, it is the reflectives that make the difference, not the colour.

Whilst a little heaver due to heavier polyester fabric, as well as the reflective strips, the reflective garment I purchased with my Paris-Brest-Paris entry is simply the only suitable after dark gilet I have ever owned.  Note the volume of reflective strips – similar to a road safety vest, but more windproof and an open sleeve to access the rear pockets of the underlying cycling jersey.

After dark, it looked something like this. Note how brightly the reflective strips show compared with the fluorescent yellow and event the battery powered tail-lights.

Red tail lights and reflective vests spread across western France

In comparison, here is a gilet I received with entry to the Lake Taupo Exteme Enduro last year. This is not to be critical of this event, or this in particular garment. This is typically what is available “off-the-shelf”, as well as for custom event runs. This gilet is made of a lightweight nylon, has a rear pocket – excellent features. Unfortunately, the only reflective is a thin section of piping down either side of the rear of the garment.


I have subsequently send my PBP gilet for repair (thanks Mum), but if you are riding after dark you are probably best off wearing a road-safety vest like this one (NZD$12.45) (see

As for dedicated cycle-wear, after more and more googling, I did come across two garments that appear to be more relective than those I had previous sited.

The Ontrack Reflect Vest (NZD$59 from Chain Reaction Cycles) appears to come close to being ideal, but for me it is a shame there is no vertically orientated reflective material over the back, and only a very thin section of piping across the shoulders. This seems to be a lot of surface area, that could have been more reflective.

The 2XU lightweight reflective vest which looks more promising for reflective quality, and if you can afford the NZD$170 price tag, I’m sure you can afford to pop one in the post for me too (thanks so much!).